Lionel O scale trains

Tom’s been in touch with his Lionel O scale trains and it really does show what this hobby is all about – having fun:

“Hello Al,

I certainly enjoy your site and thanks for everything you do. There are a tremendous amount of modelers who contribute and share their talents here.

I am not of that caliber, but I would like to share my layout. My layout is not that of a particular area or familiar scene.

I have 5 grandsons so my investment will not go to waste, the boys enjoy the action.

I will state my layout may draw criticism as there may be a road to nowhere or an item that may be slightly out of scale.

I do realize a lot of the craftsman on this site are not fond of a three rail system. They may not be a fan of “O Gauge” or even the brand of Lionel trains. That is what I had growing up, so that’s what I went with.

This layout is intended to entertain the boys and not to present a perfect setting.

What this layout does provide is everything has been scratch built. The layout is 16’ from end to end with a 7’ return leg left and right.

The radius over and under elevated area surrounding the factory is my mothers kitchen table, I cut it in half, cut the top section into a horseshoe shape and stacked them. That radius is my grandsons great grandmothers contribution.

The bridge is constructed from old milk crates and the steel structure is outside corner plaster bead.

The factory is constructed of styrofoam along with the tunnel, when spray paint was applied the styrofoam crinkles and resembles rock.

The guard rails are a product called Shlutter, it is used as a decorative end cap in tile installation. I could go on about the the different construction materials used in my scratch builds, but I think you get it.

The trains we run are all Lionel Lion Chief locomotives (5 locomotives) they are controlled by remote with Blue-tooth capabilities that can be run from the remote, your iPhone or your iPad.

I have added 2 railways for the younger guys that are the “Lionel Gang #50 cars” manufactured in the 1950’s they are controlled by transformers and they travel till they hit a bumper and automatically change direction. Keeps the young guys in the game.

Lionel O scale trains two tier model railroad

Lionel O scale trains two tier model railroad

Lionel O scale trains model railroad curve

Lionel O scale trains DCC control panel

Lionel O scale steam loco model train

o scale track plan

O scale corner tunnel

O scale corner tunnel

model train crane

O scale model train storage shelf

I know… I know….

It looks like Las Vegas.

It’s meant for the kid’s entertainment.

led lights model railroad

I am prepared to be critiqued by your viewers as this layout may not be as credible as your other followers.

It’s our railway and we will do it our way. Hahahahaha!


Tom K.”

A huge big thanks to Tom for sharing his Lionel O scale trains.

To me, it’s exactly what this hobby is all about: making your layout with your rules and having fun.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

If I don’t show up in your inbox tomorrow, don’t be alarmed, it’s simply because it really is that quiet at the mo.

And if today is the day you join in the fun just like Tom, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

model train answers

77 Responses to Lionel O scale trains

  1. Charlie says:

    Really nice! I’m not usually a fan of Lionel layouts, but this is really nice. It’s not too busy as most are. You did good work! The boys will enjoy this for many years, as will you!


    I am most of all touched by Tom’s efforts on behalf of his grandchildren. His heart is in the right place, and I’d say his work seems to be the labor of love.

    He’s created a terrific layout for his grandchildren to enjoy and for them to get a glimpse into our childhoods and the wonderful hobbies that we loved.

  3. Morey Day says:

    No worries friend,
    There are many of us 3 railers out there.!

    Use green indoor outdoor carpet with pride, and top it all off with a big plastic dinosaur.

    The customer (kids) are always right!

    God’s Speed,

  4. Joseph Mamourian says:

    Hi Tom, I love the layout! It looks like a lot of fun, and a great way to connect and spend quality time with the grandkids. Kudos to you!


  5. David Howarth says:

    Its what the hobby is about ..enjoyment ..young or old …well done

  6. Colin French says:

    As others have said your layout looks a lot of fun and I would like to see a plan showing how you keep five grandsons entertained and also more about the Lionel Gang “50 cars” being controlled by bumpers. I assume the bumpers are deliberate unlike my own accidental one.

  7. Rich B. says:

    I like this, it looks typically retro Lionel and to the point. Track is perfect, anything goes and completely agree not too “busy” at all. Scale not important but actually all fits as was in the 1950’s with erector set technology.

    Still imagine the smell of fire and brimstone, sparking still present with running the behemoths (maybe not these days) and clickity/clack on the rails, quite real sounding. Lighting is great, again as it should be at night. My opinions only here but would say the idea is in close proximity with museum quality as to how it was, not perfect scaled or actual realistic.

    Regards, Rich

  8. James says:

    Nice, but why put guard rails on a train layout ?

  9. John Frye says:

    Your work and the resulting layout is great! One thing many of us envy about O scale and the rolling stock is that they run forever and stay the heck on the track!

    Your work is clever, allows for lots of switching operations! Good job all around.

    John From Baltimore

  10. Brian Olson says:

    Sure can see how the grand kids would have fun with this layout!

  11. Stephen Hill says:

    Tom , superb work , your grandchildren are blessed to have you . Only criteria is fun , scale doesn’t matter , realistic scenery doesn’t matter . Nonetheless however you have done a quality job with those components. At the end of the day it’s yours for you and yours to enjoy . Don’t be derailed by the critics . They never post their work .. too busy tearing down others . Well they are cabooses , you’re the engineer .

  12. Jim2 (Papa) says:

    You thinking is much like mine. I have 2 grandsons who participate w me on 🎵“working on the railroad” 🎶. We use Lego mini figures for people and have a fantasy “theme”. Using buildings/work areas giving a nod to their folks and aunts and uncles (and Lego figures which represent many of the family. Though much represents the 40’s-50’s the fantasy flavor “allows” us to use superhero’s to sci-fi. As you we do it for our own entertainment. Keep playing for the fun of it!

  13. George Zaky says:

    Tom K
    Lowell took the words right out of my mouth. Your very clever use of materials is really great and your layout is awesome.
    Your 5 grandsons are so lucky to have a Grandpa like you that will become great fathers and grandads because they’re following your lead.
    Thanks for the submission and do keep us updated.
    Big Al- I really loved this one. Thanks

  14. Colorado Mike says:

    Wow Tom – your layout is great and it looks like it would be fun to run trains. No reason at all to feel like you need to apologize.

  15. Jim Marek says:

    I love it love it love it I also Am a o gauge Lionel junkie. Three rail o gauge your grandkids will love it for years and years to come

  16. Bob Sandrus says:

    Your layout, your rules. Keep loving it and enjoy those youngsters.

  17. TJK says:

    Thanks for the kind words.
    Wow! I got a response from Dangerous Dave. Honored!!!
    To James: We have Jr operators here, sometimes neglecting my lay off the throttle warnings = guardrails. 😆
    To Colin: I will send a future video of the 2 gang 50 rails in operation.
    Thanks to those who responded and most of all to Al for presenting our layout.

  18. Steve Weitzner says:

    Love this layout. I grew up on American Flyer and as I aged thought the larger scales couldn’t compete, but yours exploits the easier operation and variety of action that S and O scales offer. Great job! As my eyes now find it harder to deal with N and Z, your layout makes me think about taking those 1950’s American Flyers out of the attic.

  19. John Duryea says:

    Ots great to see some layouts that are big lionel love what you have done. I’m running Flyer Chief locomotives. Sometimes bigger is better enjoy your grandchildren and trains I do.

  20. Robert Gevert says:

    A family that trains together stays together. A fun layout Tom!! Great job!

  21. Allen Lukowski says:

    One “cool” Grandad to another, great job. You absolutely have nothing to apologize for my friend. I am starting my own “retirement HO layout” after an over 50 year hiatus due to life interferences. I have many items from my Dad that I inherited. So I too, am planning to do it “My Way” as Frankie sang to be able to incorporate a number of items. Truly impressive work, well done. Thanks for this one Al.
    Allen from Indiana

  22. Robert Binz IV says:


    I really like the layout.

    Can you furnish the drawing of the complete layout. That would be very helpful to me as I start my second O scale layout. Your room size is nearly identical to mine.

    Thank you so much

  23. Kevin McArdle says:

    You must stop apologizing for a truly beautiful layout. You miss the point of model railroading when you do that. YOU are the Chairman, CEO and owner of this railroad. There are ‘toy’ layouts and ‘craftsman’ layouts, and everything in between, and it’s all about having fun. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Ken Nelson says:

    Thanks for sending your layout. I like the large scale; I work in American Flyer O scale because I started with a set from when I was a boy. With younger fans, I felt it is easier for them to enjoy than the HO scale; hands on. Only real negative is the layouts get BIG!

  25. Vinny Quartararo says:

    Great Job. O scale goes back to my childhood days when we set up the trains , only for Christmas and they came down after the tree was gone.

  26. Gary Wilfred Hildebrandt says:

    It’s sad that he felt the need to defend himself from “us”. I admire his creativity with the building materials. The layout is beautiful but…here goes. What? No MARX and Plasticville? His grandkids need an accurate history lesson.

  27. Doug caron says:

    I love it. Running the trains is what your layout represents. I’m going to have to post my layout. It to is o scale, and running the trains is why I built it. I’m having fun with my grand kids and plenty of guests. Have fun.

  28. Glenn Beebe says:

    This is what the hobby is all about. Having fun! Nice layout.

  29. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome “O” Gauge Lionel layout Tom !!!. I’m a fan of Lionel trains also, I have a collection of Lionel trains and in the process of building a layout. I also have a collection of “HO” gauge and “G” gauge trains. You did an excellent job on your layout and you and your grandchildren should be proud of it. Keep on rolling.

  30. Patrick Andrew Talley says:


    Critics be damned. Let’s see some video’s of your trains in action. I’m forwarding this to a friend that is a 3 rail guy like you and just loves his trains. PLEASE do send a video if you can…

  31. RICHARD DOUBEK says:

    I am so damn tired of people on this site who can only find fault with a layout. As my mother used to say, If you can’t say something nice about something, don’t say anything.

  32. Larry Paxton says:

    I don’t often comment on the layouts that show up daily. Of course I love them all but this one really speaks to me. I LOVE my Lionel and Marx. It gives me permission to be a child again! I have prewar, postwar and even standard gauge. Minimal scenery but loads of fun. I grew up in the 1950’s and we couldn’t afford Lionel trains. Just some old beat up Marx trains. As an adult I’ve kinda over-compensated!! Now I’m thinking of doing an On30 Inglenook shelf layout! I eagerly open Al’s emails every morning. Keep them coming.

  33. Joseph says:

    Tom as a fellow O scaler, it is a wonderful layout. Enjoy.

  34. David W (MA) says:

    This layout is beautiful! One of the best O-Gauge layouts I have seen, especially from a building and scenery standpoint. As a young teen I had a nice Lionel Super-O layout in my parent’s basement. I wish I had thought of some barrier on the exterior track. A derailment sent a very nice, classic SantaFe diesel crashing onto the concrete floor. It never was the same. Wisdom comes with age.

  35. Bill in Virginia says:

    When I was two (a.very long time ago) my grandfather had a S Scale layout in his basement. I have vivid memories of that and that is what started my model railroad journey. Your layout is perfect and your grandkids will remember the time with grandpa. Well done!!

  36. RJ says:

    Fantastic fun. Keep up the good work.

  37. RANDY says:

    outstanding i am just at the concept stage and will be building very similar. go o gauge

  38. Brian Messenger says:

    Tom, I am an HO guy through and through BUT your layout blows me away with the detail level you have achieved on it in O scale.
    It is your layout and your rules – stick with that and your grandchildren will have lots to enjoy in the future.
    Brian – the HOn3 guy from Knysna RSA

  39. Mr. Ron from South Mississippi says:

    I too cut my teeth on Lionel trains but switched over to HO. I used to go see the large Lionel displays in Macys, New York during the Christmas holidays. I would also see the American Flyer displays at the Hall of Science on 45th street and Broadway. At those early years, HO was just coming aboard but their reliability was poor There were some fantastic Lionel layouts back then, but as model railroad products became more reliable, the Lionel people started switching to scale railroading. During that transition in time, both Lionel and American Flyer introduced some HO scale trains. They were good, but heavy. American even introduced some OO locomotives. I guess they were trying to cover themselves as best they could. I saw the gigantic Lionel/ Macys displays diminish during the Christmas rush. HO became the popular gauge and kept growing up to the present. Marx died along the way and only Lionel survived after being bought out. American Flyer also died, but I believe it is trying to make a comeback. Today there is such a variety of model railroad stuff available that there is something to suit anyone’s taste.

  40. Thomas Meleck says:

    Very cool looking layout. It certainly brings a modern & fun look to your collection.

  41. Garry Schneider says:

    Great to see some very fine Lionel 3 rail. That is what I started with at Christmas 75 years ago and am still running down in our basement here in Maine. As we become a bit older, it is nice to feel younger.

  42. Ed Parowski says:

    I know a certain 1:1 scale railroad in Ohio that would have been well served by some bumpers on the line.

  43. welder dave says:

    Hey its all about you and the kids having fun that is all that matters and its a great layout My G scale has been in the shop construction stage for years now some thing always gets in the way of working and installing it out doors . yours is up and running !!

  44. Robert W Dannheim says:

    It is a wonderful layout. Enjoy with the kids !!!!

  45. David J Tobey says:

    I love the layout and I really like the display shelves.
    I still have the Lionel trains my father collected from 1945 to 1958, now that I am retired, I look forward to setting up a nice layout to share with my grandchildren. Requires a lot of space, just one Sante Fe ABA with very long aluminum passenger cars needs more than 20 feet of track. So, I am always looking for ideas. Thanks.

  46. Russell Whitman says:

    First, thank you Alastair for continuing with your website. I too am into O scale but also have HO. I have seen so many fantastically designed landscape layouts here.

    Second, Tom, it is great that you have built a layout and share it with your grandkids. Continue to enjoy.

    My O scale is 6’X24′ with three running loops and a Trolley that runs through my mountain village and out to a station. I gave away my Plasticville pieces to my community railroad club as I have used Deptartment 56 buildings and features. Yes, that destroys “scale” but as many say it is what you enjoy. I do have some of the Lionel operating equipment and that always excites visitors.

    This hobby provides so much in skills and creativity. May y’all roll along happily.

  47. william j plmer says:


  48. Lorne Hope says:


    Great layout and well put together. I am also a big O gauge fan with a large layout of mostly Lionel trains and accessories. It is far from perfect, but I built it myself and I continue to have fun adding to the layout and making modification. It is all about having fun and enjoying the hobby.

    Lorne – NC

  49. $100 Bill says:

    Tom, this is a great layout. My only criticism of O gauge is the 3rd rail and the old 3 rails, 3 ties per piece of, track were lame. But they made the hobby affordable.
    In HO gauge Märklin came up with a good track solution by using a shoe instead of a roller. Modern 3 rail track like that you have used are progress.
    Lionel has been the world standard since WW2 for O gauge.
    As a kid I had a 4’ x 4’ oval 027 Lay-out I could slide under the bed. It had the sheet metal Lionel buildings. I ran up hundreds of hours on this layout.
    Thank you for sticking to history so that we old farts can reminisce to the days of our youth.

  50. Fred (skull ) Anderson Melbourne Australia says:

    Your Train show is what its all about when kids are involved. I really enjoyed yor narrative also

  51. John M. Foster says:

    Love the Schluter Erector Set connection. Had not considered that Home Depot could supply bridge & guard rail components …

  52. Ben Hawkins says:

    I have been looking at this layout for some time, it has given me some idea’s about the layout I want to do in the future. Looks Great

  53. Kenneth R Fox says:

    Thank goodness for another Lionel enthusiast. I realize that you can get more space with HO, but it is not as versatile and with not as many moving parts on the cars as you can get with the larger scale, O. I’ve been working on mine for a while now, and it’s coming along pretty good, so I hope to get it finished for my Grandchildren before too long. My layout will be a 8″ x 12″, not big, but I found a perfect layout plan a few years ago that gives me a lot of running room. I hope to see more O scale on here as time goes by so that I can get some more ideas for my layout. Thanks for all of the input. I appreciate it when the layouts that I see on here tell how big the layout is. Keep up the good work guys.

  54. Kenneth R Fox says:

    Pardon me, 8′ x 12′, not inches. Typo.

  55. Rich B. says:

    Was here awhile back it seems and the track cleaner car was always action packed. Would run both on same rail and had train to try and catch up, took awhile but could do lt. Track is great actually after looking at a few of the hi-rails lately.

    Said most of this before, at least a few more thought out comments aside from “Wow, like it a lot?”

    Regards, R…

  56. Don says:

    the lighting is awesome, nice double decker appeal & the crane & petroleum plant are great additions.

  57. Scott from Florida says:

    I’m not from England but… HEAR, HEAR (I think that’s how “All Y’all” over there agree Emphatically with something)….
    I agree emphatically with Alister’s summary remarks and many of the comments preceding me here!

    Very nice – the use of construction materials is a fascinating twist, and really does look like AC Gilbert’s Erector Set material in the case of the bridge. Very well done from a purest AMERICAN FLYER GUY 😀

  58. Brian Olson says:

    “Having Fun” -Good reminder!

  59. TJK says:

    A special thanks to Al for posting our layout.
    The kids will get a kick out of seeing this posting.
    Thanks Al. Tom Kelleher / TJK

  60. Ross Herbert says:

    Tom, That is a great looking layout! I’ll bet the boys have a great time with their part of it and will eventually develop into enjoying the entire system as they grow up. Great work. Keep it up, your efforts are a credit to the hobby! 8)

  61. Richard Sanchez says:

    Nice Layout. Looks like a lot of fun. Heading out soon to a Train show in Pasadena Texas, Its one of the two shows we have in the Houston area. I’ll probably spend the day there.

  62. Kirk Knutson says:

    Tom, hopefully some of your grandsons will want to be electrical engineers someday.

    Loved the night scene.

    Kirk in Tacoma

  63. Michael A Marciniak says:

    “This layout is intended to entertain the boys and not to present a perfect setting.”

    It is old school with a modern look and holding costs at bay. I say it is a fantastic layout and a job well done! I like the galvanized pipe nipples – good use! Great use of the metal corner bead.

    Tell your 5 grandboys to take good care of this layout into the coming decades.

  64. ERnest M Kraus says:

    A 3 railer since my uncle introduced me to it in 1940. The fancy electronics of today are neat y when they work but it seems the gremlins always get in. You don’t need a magnifying glass for O gauge. For the purest, count the rivets. I just dont run at Lionel speed.

  65. t says:

    Three cheers for you! Awesome layout to spend quality time with your grandsons!
    And Thanks to Alister for his amazing efforts in providing a site for Grand Pas to Brag😎⛷️

  66. Matt says:

    It may be for the grandkids, but I would love working the trains on the layout. Many of us are still kids at heart.

  67. Randy Hoeft says:

    I most remember Lionel trains from my youth so really appreciate seeing them here. Smaller gauge RRs have so many great accessories that make them so realistic. This is a truly enjoyable site.

  68. Jeff in Seattle says:

    Tom, you have put it together well my friend. It presents very nice! Thank you for sharing your passion of model railroading with us. Inspiring.

  69. John S. says:

    Anything smaller than ‘O’ gauge seems like it is for something besides trains. You enjoy the looking at it and building rather than trains. Real trains are fascinating by their size. Live steam is always interesting to watch or RIDE. Scenery is nice but it’s like putting clothes on a doll.

    The bigger the layout the better. I’m truly envious of garden layouts.

  70. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome layout Tom it looks like there’s a lot of fun for the Grandkids. I’m also a 3-rail fan along with HO and G scale trains. I also have 3 Lego electric trains plus a few pre war American Flyer trains. It doesn’t matter what you have as long as your having fun !!!!!!!!!

  71. roger turner says:

    Tom, by the number of great post here it is very evident that you have a WINNER.
    You and your grandsons have built an outstanding layout, which they can have a ball while learning about a hobby they can enjoy the rest of their lives.
    God bless you for for introducing your grandsons to model railroading.
    My best to all of you.

    Roger in Kansas

  72. welder dave says:

    One asking about guard rails on a layout ? Just have one derail and land on the floor you will get the idea !! My HO is on the ceiling suspended by 1/4 plywood cut out to look like massive steel bridging every 3 feet the road bed is 1X4 shelf pine strips I used a building product as guardrails AFTER I had a challenger derail and fall 6 1/2 feet to the floor !! along with a lot of its coal drag was a expensive incident I used a plastic strip for joining drywall that is about 2 inch tall that has a truss look and small finishing nails with the air gun on the sides to secure it . My house is underground and all poured concrete with throw rugs very little padding there !

  73. robert dale tiemann says:

    maximumuse of space. i love it. really nice layout.

  74. Michael says:

    Nice, simple, effective track plan, thanks for including the diagram.

  75. Andrew Aves says:

    Thank you for sharing Tom.

    Just at thought is that so many layouts allow trains to start clockwise in the inner circle, they can move to the outer circles with the points/switches but the only way to get back to the central circle it to reverse as there is no passing loop.
    Andrew in Oz

  76. Chris Sylvester says:

    Wow!! That’s a great job on your layout!! Thank you for sharing great ideas!

  77. Andrew Ball says:

    Great Layout, hope you all have fun with it. Don’t worry about what other people might think of it, Your Layout….Your Rules!

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